itsy bitsy

30 06 2009

dfly1I was never a big fan of dragonflies.  I remember tearing through the neighborhood, screaming bloody murder thinking I was being chased by them.  Isn’t it just like fear to blind us from some of the most beautiful things around us?

dfly2So as I watched this guy spin in the wind, unable to move, tangled in silk – it was easy to snap a few pictures before the unthinkable happened.  The outside of the garage – up near the flood lights – is always a mess at this time of year of bugs, webs and the like.

dfly3With broom in hand I decided to give the garage a good sweep…and started with the poor dragonfly.  I caught the top of the web and wouldn’t you know it…the dragonfly was free!  I didn’t think he was still alive. I thought he’d be toast by nightfall for sure.

dfly4Pablo Picasso said, “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place:  from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.”  Today I not only felt like a lucky artist getting to see this captured beauty but I also got to set him free.  And I’m not scared at all!

on death and dying

29 06 2009

glass1Within the first few years of our adventures in Spain, my in-laws began an outreach to guys who were HIV positive.  It was the early to mid-1980’s and there wasn’t as much information about the whole subject like there is now.  All I knew was that when my kids went to spend the night at Yaya and Yayo’s – they’d be there with a couple of guys with AIDS.

Those “guys” became family and when the time came for one of them in particular, we took Best Boy and Shop Girl up to the hospital to say good-bye.  The nurses were flabbergasted that we had the kids with us – let alone that we were on the AIDS floor.  They were coming to say farewell to an “uncle”.

Somewhere along in that time frame,  Billy had cancer…so did my sister.  Reeling from all that reality, somewhere, somehow I got my hands on a book that has stuck with me all these years later.  Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying was an early work that brought attention to how we process grief.  The Kübler-Ross model showed how the five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – are normal responses to dealing with the news of terminal illness and catastrophic loss.

The thing that really stuck with me is that people move through these stages on their own time.  You can’t move someone along – you can’t force them to the next step.  Nor do the steps come in perfect sequence.  One day you can be sent backwards for a matter of days or hours and the next instant be further along in the process.

Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays…all names flashed before us on Headline News these days.  But my heart weighs heavier with Best Boy’s friend and business partner dealing with the news that he may or may not have 10 more years as he lives with an inoperable brain tumor.

We are all here – really.  We have no guarantees about the next breath. We just don’t know where our individual timeline drops off the page of life as we know it.  I’m entering into the time of year already when I first started blogging thinking I had more time for fun with Billy.  I look at pictures now – taken about a year ago – and think back to how I had no idea that we’d run out of space so quickly.

“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is light from within.”  (Elizabeth Kübler-Ross)

There have been dark days and I’m sure there will be darker yet to come…sometimes I feel like it’s just a tiny flickering candle behind the frame but a little bit of light is still light.


“82-year-old Valparaiso Widow First to Sprout Eco-friendly Green Roof”

25 06 2009

groofAnd here I think that when I’m not around, she is just sitting in her recliner working word puzzles!!  As I came back from buying 30 lbs. of bird seed, 80 lbs. water softener salt and bunion pads – I noticed something startling.

I had no idea she had been doing research about eco-friendly options for roofs – planting gardens in her gutters.  It was only 90ºs at 8:30 a.m. so I wanted to get a closer look before it really got hot.

Finding the most ridiculous aluminum ladder I could drag out of the garage, I nimbly  got up to where I could inspect the handiwork.  She’d been saying the gutters needed to be cleaned out!  While I was in such a heightened state of heat stroke – I decided to trim an overgrown bush while there.

Naturally, the only thing I could find that resembled hedge clippers was a pair of 200 lb. 80 year old overgrown scissors.  I think I could have chewed the clippings off faster.

Fully enjoying the delirium of dehydration, I decided that nothing would get done in the basement this time around.  I had done enough penance.  I don’t do yards!!!

Time to head home – but not till after we finished the weekly round of two anniversary cards, a thank you card to the guy that graciously mows the lawn each week on a robo-mower, and one last card to encourage the wife of Billy’s best bowling bud who has traveled lots farther down the Alzheimer’s road-of-no-return than Billy ever had to walk.   Those got put in the mail – I stopped and got her something to eat and now it’s time to go.

She didn’t sleep well last night.  So she’s snoozing in the chair – the puzzle book page partially done on her lap.

It’s really hard work being so inovative at her age with that green roof top garden and all…


hands down

24 06 2009


We were at a friend’s house the other night, sipping wine and catching up with a couple that has moved to Morocco to started a custom, sustainable furniture business there.  At one point a half a dozen or so of us had landed in the livingroom and the subject of Shop Girl’s bump came up.  “So, how’s it going Grandma?”

I have to admit – I was in the middle of hugging the hostess when I almost continued the motion to put her in a full headlock till she cried “uncle”.  “No, I don’t think so…” I continued – she quickly got my point.  I can’t be Grandma.  Not because I’m not going to technically be that but names are everything.

So the discussion started.  GiGi, MiMi, Nana, Noni, Yaya…the list began and we were trying them on for size.  I like Monkee myself.  Got mixed reviews.  How about Queen Mother of the Universe?  Try as we’d like – sometimes we don’t get to choose.  Out of the mouths of babes come the best choices.

There was always a distinction between the two sides of my family.  There was no maternal grandmother alive so we only had the name for my mom’s dad – which was Grandpa Cummer.  The watchmaker.  Thick glasses, bushy squared off moustache, hearing aids with the little amplifier resting in his shirt pocket, honky-tonk piano player – and the one that would plaster his whole body in front of the TV if while babysitting a beer or cigarette commercial would come on.  Seriously.  Like Superman – arms firmly planted on his hips, inflating his tiny chest to do whatever he could to avert our innocent eyes from the evils of the world.

On the other side – was the Granddad – who died before I was 8 or so.  The black and white squares from a Brownie camera show us frequently gathered – separate shots of the grandkids (I was the youngest of 14), others of the siblings and wives/husbands.  I don’t remember the early years but I do remember after he had his stroke.

My dad would go various times a week to shave him.  He’d been left almost completely paralyzed and bound to a hospital bed that replaced a dining room table.  Having spent time working in a rehab hospital myself – I now wonder about a million more details of his situation and can’t for the life of me figure out how my grandmother and aunts’ hands managed his 24 hour care.

The hands of grandparents…the things they do and the memories they shape.  Soon enough someone will have a new perception of me.  The Mrs.’ hands that once stroked my eyebrows and traced the outlines of my face as I dozed away sleepy Sunday morning sermons…did the same for my kids.  The same hands that labored making my wedding dress made some of my kids’ favorite “dress-up” costumes.  Nothing beats her recipe for the best chocolate cake with cream cheese icing from her mother, Georgia’s hands to the Mrs.’ to mine to Shop Girl’s.

Maybe I’ll get to teach Baba Louie how to blog…

You can re-read some the history of the mix here.


21 06 2009


It started all quite innocently…Shop Girl had come to Indiana with me for a visit with the Mrs.  On our way out of town she wanted to find a little “something something” to celebrate School Boy’s first unofficial Father’s Day.


Since we are all about shopping local – we headed to the downtown’s quaint re-purposed storefronts.  Funny, this one sits just a door or two away from where the 1893 City Directory lists LeClair & McNiece had their grocery store at 8 South Washington.  Obviously, Shop Girl has it coursing through her veins.


Peering down the street to where the Premier Theater used to stand and over my shoulder into the recesses of my memory,  I was transported to a Saturday matinee  in 1971 – having imbibed some magical candy – friends and I entered the fantastical world of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Now on this unseasonably hot day, almost 4 decades later I step inside this virtual Turkish Delight.


Much wiser now, I realize that eye-candy is just as rich if not richer than the stuff I could be melting on my tongue.  We tried to take it all in…perusing and pressing close to the glass cases in search of that special something.


It was the kind of place that had every kind of penny candy – reminding me that I used to tight-fist some of the change Billy would give me for the Sunday School offering…surreptitiously stealing down the alley to a corner store, I could be licking my lips and standing at the car looking innocent enough by the time the rest of the family got there.

Protestant Guilt would have me wondering why I never choked to death on that candy purchased with monies intended for the hand of  missionary Edith Witherspoon somewhere deep in the Congo.  I stole from the Lord’s work.  Karma came ’round as I dug my way through missionary closets and spent countless Sunday mornings with the Children’s Church set.


Shop Girl carefully examined each nook and cranny in search of the perfect token.  None was to be found that would express what she was trying to convey.  But, alas, she realized that “we” (she and baby? she and I?? all three of us perhaps???) needed a “little goodie” for ourselves.


Nothing but the warmed lava cake would do.  Taken back to the fact that I wasn’t shopping for Father’s Day…I missed Billy something awful.

He never was much of a cake or cookie eater.  When he DID eat chocolate cake – it was first sprinkled with salt.  Apple pie wasn’t complete without cheese.  He liked his vanilla ice cream plain and simple – like spoonful by spoonful right out of the freezer.  One of the biggest surprises in hospice was when he asked for chocolate ice cream – a sure sign there was a major shift in the universe happening.

If I had been looking to buy him something in this sweet shoppe – I would have had to ask for the jar of anise candies.  On their first visit to Spain back in 1986 or ’87, he found a hard candy that tickled his fancy.  I remember him taking all the black jelly beans when we were kids.  He loved liquorice.  Did he really  – or was it just that he learned to take what everyone else turned their noses up at?  Liquorice and anise aren’t the same thing – but they fall in that family of distinctive tastes.

In tiny corner stores all over Spain, anise candies come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  He found one he really got enthusiastic about and for the dozen or so years that followed, I would never head Stateside for a visit without a kilo or more in tow – just for him.  He kept a secret stash all these years and every time my kids would walk into his house – they would be presented with a few pieces to put in their pockets before we left.

A few weeks ago, before Shop Girl and I left for LA, some friends were over for a tapas feast.  As I reached my hand in the antique Spanish alacena (breakfront / hutch) to retreive a half a dozen espresso cups, I found where I had been stashing away some of the candies Billy would give me on my weekly visits in the last few years.  I had entirely forgotten that they were there – and it was if an invisible arm extended from behind the glass door had grabbed me by my throat and started strangling me.  I quickly recovered so as not to ruin the evening with my personal drama and set the cup aside.  I decided to leave the candy out where I could see it during the following days – and to eat one every time I felt like it.  I ate the last one the other day.

Life goes on…even when I momentarily choke on the memories.  Billy never made a big deal about days like Father’s Day.  He was hard, in my opinion, to buy for.  So there were more Father’s Days than NOT, that a card was all he got from me.  I want to wallow a bit today.  I don’t want to move on.  There have been lots of days in the last month – with my voice strong and clear – I’ve chirped out, “My Dad passed away last August and I…” without missing a beat.

The sweet side of yesterday’s bitterness was being able to hug my best friend’s dad and to wish him a Happy Father’s Day.  Seeing her – visiting for an hour with her folks and her husband – made Father’s Day for me.  I miss my Daddy.

p.s. Thanks Designer Desserts…it was a trip!dd8

BTW check this place out if you are looking for a place that does the kind of thing you see on Ace of Cakes but for a fraction of the price.

Go Valpo!

runway blues

17 06 2009


Hovering above the tarmac in my uncomfortable seat, I can see each crack.  Signage seems easy enough to follow.  Double yellow lane lines have their meaning.  Orange vested people wave their arms to further direct. If I had to walk out of here – I see my first major hurdle would be the mountains just in the distance.


Only a minute or two later, gathered speed lifts me to another vista.  The stables where Shop Girl used to take riding lessons.  Still recognizable – I can trace the roads and turns I’d take to get her there.

Before long, things blur – get tinier and tinier -when they are really getting bigger and bigger.  A different patchwork comes into view.  If my directional sense is intact – I can still identify which roads lead where.


Within another blink of an eye, I can see a larger picture.


I need that today.  If feel like I am staring at the weeds between the cracks of the runway.  I know there is a bigger picture – a greater design…and some altitude would be helpful to see where these roads really end up.

Leaving the hall light on…

16 06 2009


I can hardly believe that just 90 days ago – 3 short months – these clever wall sconces illuminated a dark passageway to our hotel room where we vacationed.  I want these all over my house.  They didn’t really give off much light at all – just plenty of ambience – and enough wattage so you could get a feel for where you were going with some confidence.

Yeah, I wish I had lights like this permanently attached to my knees…casting just that right amount of brightness so that I could step ahead without fear.

If I could have even imagined the changes in our lives in three short months – I would have shaken my head in disbelief.  Tomorrow morning, before dawn, one of Best Boy’s partners undergoes a functional MRI followed on Wednesday by a brain biopsy at Mayo Clinic.  He wasn’t thinking about tumors three months ago.  If God would have whispered it into his ear, he still wouldn’t have believed it.

We do NOT know what is around the corner.  We don’t get to choose.  We get to step into the darkness – to forge ahead- on a journey that is especially designed for us alone.  No guarantees that everything turns out the way we’d like it to and many times we are surprised by grace, mercy and goodness.

But in the darkness all of our senses are heightened.  We can “feel” things with our ears – when our eyes can’t see.  We stretch our arms out in front of us as a form of protection but it doesn’t keep us from tripping.  Try as we might, we don’t navigate the inky void all that well.

Even not knowing what is ahead, it is not some cruel joke.  It is a blessed adventure making our faith the hall light that gets left on in the dark.

and the beat goes on…

10 06 2009


Guerrilla record making.  Have friends who’s friends owe them favors.  Hire one of the best drummers in LA for the price of 2 Mountain Dews and a lunch from California Pizza Kitchen.  Gerry Porter laid down drum tracks for six songs- maybe two takes each-like it was nothing.

michaelIt never hurts when said drummer is childhood friends, harkening back to days in Cleveland, with a sound engineer wizard who runs Blacksound Studios-a perfectly vibey place with a throw back to the 70’s.  Michael Parnin  welcomed three strangers into his space and we left on speaking terms.  So much so that we are going back for him to do final magic before we head to the airport tomorrow morning at 6 a.m.


After a few hours in the studio – the boyz blow off some steam shootin’ hoops.

We know we’ll have some culture shock going back to MI now that we are fully entrenched and on a rockstar schedule.  Noon is the new 7 a.m. – warmed up to do first vocals no sooner than 3 p.m. (like just getting started on your work day) – our breakfast / brunch / lunch is your dinner.  There was a band coming into the house we are staying at in “the Valley” at 10:30 p.m. just getting started on some work.  We are officially screwed for re-entry into the real world.


My job while we’ve been here has been simple…keep the receipts and keep the food available at all times for when the preggers “talent” looks like she is flagging.  It’s been an adventure of the best kind.  The stories we’ll have to tell baby of its time on Skid Row…

stairway to heaven

8 06 2009

stairway1Notice that the garbage can notes the location.  These have been up and down days.  Emotional roller-coaster days for sure.  Long hours, hard work, tedious work – good work days and bad work days.  Life keeps happening around us even tho we are in this creative bubble.

DSC_0022The phone rings we get news that disturbs.  One of Best Boy’s business partners quite by accident – literally – discovers he has a brain tumor (check out his blog).  It reminds us all that we are living on a faultline.  None of us knows from one day to the next what will come our way.  But we know WHO is in charge.

nitewindowThe sun comes up  – the sun goes down each day has its own trouble – no need to worry about tomorrow’s trouble.  Living in the moment and hanging on for dear life.

simmer down…

6 06 2009

runawayThere is a scene in Runaway Bride where Julia Roberts is dressed to walk down the aisle yet again – starts to hyperventilate – and stands in front of an oscillating fan.  Shop Girl’s take on that was after being in the iso (isolation) booth which we call the Womb as it is a tiny, very cushy box for vocals and guitar tracks…but no ventilation.

So after an hour of tracking guitar and vocals and being extremely frustrated – she decided to listen to the demo and realized that she was playing in the wrong key.  Thank God for the fan – a computer – a demo and some brains.  We got a good laugh out of it.  Naturally she nailed the vocals when they were connecting with her brain…

palmDriving back to our digs that evening we did one of the ultimate tests of good sound recordings…cranking them up on a car stereo.  We took notes and knew what had to be fixed the next day.  But it was a moment in that magical light – to feel so good.

crosslaAnd is just like every production story…the next morning it all went south.  Our dongle went dumb.  No more Logic.  This is techy speak for OHMYGODWHATDOYOUMEANWECANNOTACCESSALLTHEWORKWEHAVEDONE!

angleBegging the studio angel of music mercy to have compassion on our lowly estate, she smiled on us and all “seems” well.  We borrowed a dongle and press on!